“Jesus Is As Close To You Right Now As I Am . . . ” (Part Three)

When I woke up the next morning well before dawn in the YMCA that Hank stayed at in West Hartford, I got showered, dressed, and hitchhiked back to Manchester over to the east of Hartford, Connecticut, the state’s largest city.

A year later, a musical group calling themselves The Village People from New York City released a huge international hit song “Y.M.C.A.” ostensibly celebrating the dowdy Young Men’s Christian Association but actually promoting homosexual sex and orgies. “Y.M.C.A.” is still a mainstream staple at sporting events, political conventions, anywhere large groups of people gather to have fun, notwithstanding what everyone knows is the gay double entendre of the song.

I can assure you that I saw no sign of sexual orgies at the West Hartford YMCA . . . gay or otherwise . . . but maybe that’s just a Connecticut thing. However, I slept the sleep of the dead that night anyway being so damned tired from the full day that I’d had . . . so maybe I missed all the partying.

I got to my sales territory in Manchester right on time and knocked on my first door promptly at 8 a.m. My morning went well. Inspired by what Hank had shown me the day before, I did give ten demonstrations that morning like we were supposed to do.

Ten demos in the morning, ten in the afternoon, and ten in the evening of our thirteen hour days, and our sales company that had been around since the end of the American Civil War assured a summer salesman of success. Give ten demonstrations, and the law of averages kicks in to guarantee at least one sale of the crappy all-in-one study guide that we were hawking for parents to buy their first through twelfth grade student children that would replace an expensive set of home encyclopedias and avoid the need for a bothersome trip to the local library all for the low and extremely affordable price of sixty dollars of which we sales people got to pocket twenty.

And sure enough, I DID sell a student guide that very morning on my tenth demo . . . and what a demo it was!

I must’ve woken her up around 11 a.m. because she answered the door in just her nightgown, a full length, form fitting, light satin nightgown. She was completely “covered up” but in a most revealing way which made things even more tantalizing. She was twenty something and beautiful and likely didn’t have any children from the looks of her, and she also didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed to be standing in her doorway presenting herself in such a manner to the twenty year old salesman there.

“Hello, Mam, how many dozen children do you have living here in your home?”

I forget now what she said to my stupid sales pitch question, and it didn’t even matter, because I was trained to keep right on talking straight through to the close, “So how many of our fine study guides may I put YOU down for?”

In between my stupid opening line and my absurd close, several minutes of a suddenly sexually charged situation surrounded the sales spiel spilling out of my mouth. Nothing happened, except at the end of my pitch, she said, “One, please.” And then she turned and walked away to get her check book to write me out her personal check for sixty dollars, handed her check to me, accepted the receipt that I wrote out and handed to her with my promise to return in about a week with her new purchase.

I walked away from the house elated but also wondering, “What the hell just happened there?”

“What COULD have happened?”

It was time for my brief lunch break of an apple that I’d already purchased at a convenience store that morning. Munching my apple as I tried to ready my focus to give ten more demos in the afternoon ahead, I mulled over the possibilities for a brief sexual escapade that might have happened if I had been more perceptive to and heeded what might have been a subtle invitation on her part.

Was I supposed to have stepped inside her doorway when she’d turned to go get her checkbook instead of waiting there on her doorstep like the obtuse rube that maybe I had just been? Would such a slight move on my part have led to her bedroom or to a jail cell, scandal, and ruin? Who the hell knew? But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What about when I brought the book back to her house for delivery next week? Would her invitation, if that’s what it was, still be open to me then? It was something to think about, that’s for sure . . . and thinking about it over and over again I knew was just what awaited me in the next seven days to come.

Getting up from my spartan lunch, I started my afternoon by approaching a middle aged, tall, slim man who was washing his car in his drive way. His house was a typical New England modest two story house with a large porch that sat right next to a small church building of the quaint and picturesque variety that were built all across that section of our country where the so-call “Great Awakening” of American Christianity had once occurred a couple hundred years before.

Unlike Arthur Miller the day before with Hank, this man put down his work and gave me his complete attention. As I introduced myself and began my sales pitch, the man gestured kindly toward the front steps of his house, and we sat there with my crappy books on my lap as I asked him “How many dozen children do you have living here in your home” and then proceeded to plow on through the spiel that I could say in my sleep.

But all the while I was talking, I had the increasing strong urge to tell this man about the last few years of my life for some strange and seemingly irresistible reason. When I asked how many books I could put him down for, the man answered kindly, “Those are some very fine books, Mark, but I’m afraid that we can’t afford them.” Instead of pushing past this initial resistance like we had been trained to do, I just closed my demo book shut and said, “Can I ask you a question?” The man said, “Sure.”

I hadn’t really wanted to ask the man a question, I had wanted to kind of spill my guts. I have no idea why I wanted to do that. Looking back now, I think it was the Spirit of the God to whom I’d been praying so regularly, “God, please lead me to do Your Will” moving me to want to tell this man everything that I’d been doing for the last few years. But internally resisting that weird impulse, I found myself asking instead, “How did you get to be a pastor of this church?”

The man began a long, and to me, boring account of his own life about how he became a believer in Jesus Christ when he was a teenager and then was “led” by God into Christian ministry, marrying his wife along the way, and with her raising their children, including their son who was now grown, studying at a Christian seminary out of state, but leading a coffee house that summer for young people like myself on Friday nights in the basement of the church next door.

All the while that the man was telling me this I kept going over in my mind the events of my last few years changing in high school from a good student who went to church each Sunday with my parents to a drug-using, sex-starved, rock-n-roll rebel without a cause who had gotten busted for marijuana, dropped out of college, broke my parents’ hearts, moved out on my own, and finally took the job that I had trying to make enough money so that I could buy a motorcycle and a handgun, move to California, and sell pot for a living in order to have as much sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll that it would take to finally make me “happy.”

When the man stopped talking and asked me how did I become a door-to-door salesman, I verbally vomited everything that I had been thinking about while he had been yammering on and on. I can’t remember if I had cried during my confession about my misspent youth, but I know the I had felt extremely convicted . . . and dirty . . . over things that in another context I’d have been bragging about with my now nowhere to be found one time friends.

As I hung my head in shame, the man gently placed one arm around my sagging shoulders and said to me, “Mark . . . Jesus is as close to you right now as I am . . . but He wants to be here” and he lightly tapped my chest right over my heart.

The Sinner’s Prayer

2 responses to ““Jesus Is As Close To You Right Now As I Am . . . ” (Part Three)”

  1. You have a vivid imagination my brother .😊

    1. And a God with a great sense of humor, huh! 😎

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: